WASHINGTON (AFP) – Japanese automaker Toyota has recalled another 2.3 million vehicles to fix floor mat and carpet defects that could jam the accelerator, the latest in a spate of recalls to hit the firm.
Pressed by US authorities, Toyota announced the recall of 2.17 million vehicles in the United States to fix flaws in its Lexus GS, RX and LX models and Toyota's Highlander, 4Runner and RAV4 SUVs.
|AFP file - A row of Toyota vehicles are seen on display at a car dealership in Oakland, California.|
It also called in 147,000 vehicles in Canada, bringing total worldwide recalls to more than 12 million vehicles worldwide since late 2009, which have battered the firm's previously stellar reputation for safety.
Like those earlier recalls, Thursday's announcements were linked to "sticking" in accelerator pedals caused by jammed floor mats or carpets.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it had asked Toyota to carry out the move, after a 10 month probe which ruled out problems with the vehicles' electronic control systems.
In a statement, Toyota said the carpet cover in some vehicles was not properly installed and could "interfere with the accelerator pedal arm," making it unable to return to the "idle position."
Another flaw could cause a plastic pad in the floor carpet to "interfere with the operation of the accelerator pedal."
A third problem caused "the potential for unsecured or incompatible floor mat entrapment of the accelerator pedal."
The NHTSA said it hoped the recalls would bring an end to the issue.
The agency "reviewed more than 400,000 pages of Toyota documents to determine whether the scope of its recalls for pedal entrapment was sufficient," administrator David Strickland said in a statement.
"As a result of the agency's review, NHTSA asked Toyota to recall these additional vehicles, and now that the company has done so, our investigation is closed."
But the matter is unlikely to be closed for consumers or the company.
It faces tough competition to regain its US market dominance and still has to deal with a rash of lawsuits over accidents linked to the accelerator issue -- including at least 89 alleged fatalities.
"This latest recall hits Lexus, particularly its huge volume RX," said Michelle Krebs an analyst at Edmunds.com. "The luxury crown could easily be lost by Lexus this year, and this recall doesn't help."
In 2008, Toyota ended General Motors' 77-year reign as the world's largest automaker. But since then the Japanese giant has faced the impact of the economic crisis, recalls and, recently, a strong yen.
While net profit in the nine months to December quadrupled year-on-year on a post-crisis rebound, last year ended with Toyota losing market share to rivals in the United States -- its second largest market by volume.
Toyota has paid the US authorities nearly $50 million in penalties related to the recalls.